AFC North: Eli Manning

PITTSBURGH – Ben Roethlisberger to the St. Louis Rams?

The veteran quarterback could only laugh off a tweet, which surfaced earlier this week, that has the Steelers dealing him before the trade deadline if they get off to another slow start this season.

Roethlisberger
“I guess that’s the world we live in. People can make up whatever they want [on social media] and it’s unfortunate,” Roethlisberger said. “That’s why I don’t tweet and Facebook and all that other stuff.”

Roethlisberger – and the Steelers – can each say until they are blue in the face that the shared goal is for him to play his entire career in Pittsburgh, and it still won’t stop speculation about his future.

If team president Art Rooney II is looking to unload the most important Steelers’ most important player since the dynastic teams of the 1970s, he sure doesn’t sound like it.

“I don’t see anything physically that would lead you to believe [Roethlisberger] is starting to tail off in any way,” Rooney told ESPN.com recently. “So I think maybe some of his best years are still ahead of him here.”

Roethlisberger, who turned 32 in March, still certainly appears to be in his prime.

He is coming off a season in which he threw for the most second-most yards (4,261) and touchdowns (28) in his career. The 6-foot-5, 241-pound quarterback is also taking fewer hits with the Steelers running the no-huddle offense more frequently.

Just as significant: Roethlisberger and Todd Haley are in a good place after an, ahem, adjustment period when the latter succeeded Bruce Arians as the Steelers’ offensive coordinator in 2012.

For all of the talk about how the two aren’t exactly golfing buddies, they have in fact hit the links a couple of times together this year, Haley said.

“He’s as competitive as they come,” said Haley, who has a similar reputation. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s on a Sunday or on the golf course. That’s a trait that you love to see guys have. He’s competitive when you start naming '80s music too. He is surprisingly good.”

He’s not bad at playing quarterback, either.

Roethlisberger is in the process of rewriting the Steelers’ record book, and he has the best winning percentage (.669) this side of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning among active NFL quarterbacks.

Cornerback Ike Taylor said Roethlisberger is the most underrated quarterback in the NFL even though Big Ben, Brady and Eli Manning are the only active quarterbacks who have won multiple Super Bowls.

“Just being a tough, hard-nosed guy, I don’t think he gets the credit,” Taylor said of Roethlisberger. “How he plays, the injuries he plays through, that’s why he’s a Steeler.”

Until they trade him to the Rams, anyway.
Ben RoethlisbergerAP Photo/Gene J. PuskarBen Roethlisberger, the Steelers' first-round pick in 2004, has forever impacted the franchise.
PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers needed more than a little luck to end their long search for the rightful heir to Terry Bradshaw, the quarterback they had taken first overall in the 1970 NFL draft.

Ten years ago today -- and almost a quarter of a century after they selected Bradshaw by winning a coin toss to secure the top pick over the Chicago Bears -- the Steelers drafted Ben Roethlisberger with the 11th overall pick.

As with Bradshaw, the pick set the franchise on a glorious course.

Bradshaw struggled early in his career and was benched and booed by fans before winning four Super Bowls, but with Roethlisberger, the Steelers got a serious return on their quarterback investment earlier than anyone could have expected.



An injury to starter Tommy Maddox in the second game of the 2004 season thrust Roethlisberger into action. And the quarterback who had been considered more of a project than the two picked ahead of him (Eli Manning and Philip Rivers) because he hadn't played against top competition at Miami (Ohio) responded by winning his first 14 starts.

The Steelers suffered a disappointing loss to Tom Brady and the Patriots in the 2004 AFC Championship Game, but they finally found their quarterback after going through their share of them following Bradshaw's retirement in 1984.

Roethlisberger led the Steelers to three Super Bowls from 2005 to 2010, winning two of them, and he showed a flair for extending plays after his pass protection had collapsed, as well as directing clutch fourth-quarter drives -- both the result of a competitive streak that is as long as one of the three rivers that converge in Pittsburgh.

He authored his signature comeback in Super Bowl XLIII when the Steelers trailed the upstart Arizona Cardinals by three points and were backed up at their 10-yard line with less than three minutes left in the game.

Roethlisberger needed eight plays and a little more than two minutes to lead the Steelers to a game-winning touchdown, capping the drive with a 6-yard scoring pass to Santonio Holmes.

The pass was vintage Roethlisberger: daring and something more likely seen in a backyard game, not the NFL's biggest stage. Roethlisberger unleashed the pass under pressure, throwing it into a crowd but only where his receiver had a chance to catch it.

That unlikely play, in retrospect, serves as something of a metaphor for Roethlisberger's Steelers career, because so much had to break just right for him to wear black and gold in the first place.

“We didn't expect that he would end up in Pittsburgh,” Ryan Tollner, Roethlisberger's agent, said.

Indeed, 10 teams picked ahead of the Steelers in the 2004 draft, including the Browns, who would have been hailed for taking the Ohio native to lift the struggling franchise.

And Roethlisberger's camp didn't know to what extent he was on the Steelers' radar.

The team had met with Roethlisberger at the NFL scouting combine and also hosted him for a pre-draft visit, but they never worked him out. Tollner figured he would go to the Raiders at No. 2, the Cardinals at No. 3, the Giants at No. 4 or the Browns at No. 6.

If none of those teams drafted Roethlisberger, Tollner thought, Buffalo at No. 13 would be the probable landing spot for his client.

Meanwhile, another member of Roethlisberger's inner circle was convinced the Giants were going to draft him. Terry Hoeppner, his coach at Miami, had spoken extensively with Ernie Accorsi about Roethlisberger and had gotten a good vibe from the Giants' general manager.

[+] EnlargeBen Roethlisberger
AP Photo/John Marshall MantelQB Ben Roethlisberger hasn't forgotten about all of the teams -- especially the Browns -- who bypassed him in the 2004 draft.
That is why when the Giants drafted Rivers -- they subsequently dealt him to the Chargers for Manning, who had been taken first overall -- Hoeppner fired a water bottle in disgust across the table where he was sitting with Roethlisberger and others at the draft in New York City.

The Redskins took safety Sean Taylor with the fifth pick, providing an opening for the Browns, who needed a quarterback after Tim Couch, the first overall selection in 1999, didn't pan out.

"[Roethlisberger] is a northwest Ohio kid, and played in-state at Miami of Ohio and here the Browns are, they've struggled at the quarterback position for a long time," Tollner said. "Ben is sitting there and they elect to go with a tight end. It's something Ben's never forgotten and he never will."

The Browns' picking tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. proved to be one of the draft's pivotal points. But the Steelers also came close to passing over Roethlisberger after he lasted through the first 10 picks.

The team had zeroed in on Arkansas offensive tackle Shawn Andrews, but owner Dan Rooney deftly shifted the conversation to Roethlisberger before the Steelers made their pick.

Rooney had good reason to speak up.

The Steelers had built their dynasty in the 1970s -- and transformed an organization once synonymous with losing -- through shrewd drafting.

They had missed an opportunity near the end of Bradshaw's career when they passed on local legend Dan Marino in the 1983 draft and instead selected Texas Tech defensive tackle Gabe Rivera with the 21st pick.

The Dolphins pounced on Marino with the 27th selection, and his strong arm and quick-as-a-hiccup release allowed the Pitt product to become an early star in Miami and eventually a first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer.

The Steelers, meanwhile, shuffled through enough quarterbacks in the post-Bradshaw era that seven different players led them in passing from 1983 to 2003.

Rooney fretted that overlooking Roethlisberger also might come back to haunt the Steelers.

"I couldn't bear the thought of passing on another great quarterback prospect," Rooney wrote in his book "Dan Rooney: My 75 Years With The Pittsburgh Steelers and The NFL."

"So I steered the conversation around to Roethlisberger. After some more talk, we came to a consensus and picked Roethlisberger."

Ten years later, Roethlisberger remains the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl -- he was only 23 when the Steelers beat the Seahawks in February 2006 -- and joins Eli Manning and Brady as the only active quarterbacks with multiple Super Bowl victories.

Roethlisberger, who turned 32 in March, already has broken many of Bradshaw's Steelers records and is five victories away from becoming the 13th quarterback in NFL history to win at least 100 regular-season games.

It hasn't all been smooth for Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh.

A motorcycle accident after his first Super Bowl victory left Roethlisberger seriously injured and may have contributed to his uneven play in 2006. And two sexual assault allegations made against him less than a year apart led to a four-game personal-conduct policy suspension by the NFL at the beginning of the 2010 season (Roethlisberger was never charged with a crime).

Roethlisberger since has rehabilitated his image, gotten married and started a family. He is considerably closer to the end of his career than the beginning of it, though he played every snap last season.

It's safe to say Roethlisberger is one of the best draft choices in Steelers history -- and the most critical one to reconnecting the team that has won a record six Lombardi trophies with its triumphant past.

Oh, and yeah, Roethlisberger is 19-1 in his career against the Browns, the most notable and personal of the teams that passed on him 10 years ago.

"I think that Ben getting where he did in hindsight was the best thing that could have happened to him because he went to a strong organization but he went in a position that kept him feeling like an underdog," Tollner said. "He entered the league a very respectable pick at No. 11 overall but very driven to prove that 10 teams made a very bad mistake in passing on him."

NFLN survey/Super Bowl QB: Steelers

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Tom Brady and Peyton Manning dominated ESPN’s NFL Nation survey of which quarterback players would most want if their respective teams needed a touchdown to win the Super Bowl with two minutes left in the game.

Brady (128) and Manning (86) combined to capture roughly two-thirds of the vote among the 320 players polled by ESPN’s NFL Nation.

Ben Roethlisberger received 20 votes to finish fifth among quarterbacks behind Brady, Manning, Aaron Rodgers (32) and Drew Brees (21).

Five of Roethlisberger’s votes came from teammates, a sign of how much his play at the end of close games is valued in the Steelers’ locker room.

Roethlisberger has led the Steelers to wins 33 times, including the postseason, in games in which they trailed or were tied in the fourth quarter. His most famous rally came in Super Bowl XLV five years ago when Roethlisberger marched the Steelers 78 yards in eight plays for the touchdown that beat the upstart Arizona Cardinals, 27-23.

Roethlisberger capped the drive with a 6-yard pass that Santonio Holmes snared with a tip-toe catch before getting pushed out of bounds. That play delivered the Steelers’ record sixth Super Bowl title and remains frozen in time for Pittsburgh fans.

Had I been granted a vote I would have thought long and hard before giving it to Brady over Roethlisberger, and I think you could flip a coin between the two quarterbacks who have won a combined five Super Bowls.

Roethlisberger’s improvisational skills and his burning desire to win have long made him one of the best quarterbacks when the game is on the line. He has delivered every time? Of course not. But neither has Brady, who has been outdueled late in the Patriots’ last two Super Bowl losses by Eli Manning.

Eli Manning received nine votes in the anonymous survey followed by Andrew Luck (eight) and Matthew Stafford (seven) and Russell Wilson (three).

The only other quarterback to receive more than one vote? Matt McGloin, who picked up two of them.

Draw your own conclusions there.
Joe Flacco's agent told CNBC that the Super Bowl's Most Valuable Player should be the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL. That means Flacco would command more than the Saints' Drew Brees, who is earning $20 million per season.

Here is Flacco's case for why he should get paid more than every quarterback in the league:
  • His nine playoff victories are tied with Tom Brady for the most ever by a quarterback in his first five seasons. Flacco also has the same number of postseason victories as Peyton Manning -- which is significant considering Flacco has played nine fewer seasons.
  • Flacco has won 63 games, including the regular season and playoffs, since 2008. That's six more than anyone else during that same span, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers are the closest to Flacco with 57 victories. Brees is third with 56.
  • Flacco enjoyed a postseason for the ages. His 11 touchdowns tied the NFL record for most in a postseason. Joe Montana is the only other player in NFL history with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in a postseason.
  • His Total QBR of 95.1 was seven points higher than any other Super Bowl performance in the Total QBR era (since 2008). His rating topped those of Brees, Brady, Rodgers and both Manning brothers.
  • Flacco completed 40 passes of at least 25 yards in the regular season. Only Brees (47) threw more than Flacco.
  • Among quarterbacks with 500 pass attempts in 2012, Flacco had the third-fewest interceptions with 10. That ranks behind Brady and Rodgers, who had eight each. Flacco didn't throw an interception in his last 195 passes, a streak that spans seven games.
  • He has never missed a start in his five-year NFL career, a streak of 80 consecutive games. Only Eli Manning (135 games) and Philip Rivers (112) have longer streaks than Flacco.
  • Flacco is the first quarterback in NFL history to win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons. He also has six career road playoff wins, which is the most in NFL postseason history (Eli Manning has five).
  • He has 15 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime. Four of them have come this season, including the AFC divisional playoff game in Denver. That's one fewer than Ben Roethlisberger during that same span.
To clinch the AFC North, the Baltimore Ravens have to avoid becoming the first team to get swept by the Manning brothers in consecutive weeks.

Baltimore is the fourth team to face Peyton and Eli Manning in back-to-back games. In 2004, the Ravens routed Eli in his rookie season before losing to Peyton. In 2006, the Titans beat the Mannings in consecutive games, defeating them by a field goal each time. Then, a month ago, the Bengals lost to Peyton before beating Eli.

Eli Manning acknowledged he received some advice from his older brother after Peyton and the Broncos toppled the Ravens, 34-17, last Sunday.

“I talked to him a little bit and watched the game,” Eli Manning said during a conference call with Baltimore reporters. “Our offenses are a little different. I tried to just watch the game and see what they were doing and see how the defense played certain looks. So I talked to him a little bit, but it’s really going to be a matter of our own preparation and trying to understand what type of scheme we’re going to run against them.”

The Ravens have had much more trouble with Peyton than Eli. Peyton Manning is 7-2 against the Ravens in the regular season with 18 touchdowns and five interceptions (103.0 passer rating). Eli is 1-1 against Baltimore with one touchdown and three interceptions (32.6 rating).

Wrap-up: Bengals 31, Giants 13

November, 11, 2012
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My thoughts on the Cincinnati Bengals' 31-13 victory over the New York Giants at Paul Brown Stadium:

What it means: In their first win over a team with a winning record in more than a year, the Bengals (4-5) ended their four-game losing streak and keep their faint playoff hopes alive. They did so in impressive style against the reeling defending Super Bowl champion Giants (6-4). Cincinnati cracked 30 points for the first time since its Sept. 23 win at Washington. This was the Bengals' second win in five home games this season.

Dalton's streak ends: Andy Dalton's streak of eight straight games with an interception is over. He responded with a career-high four touchdowns, completing 21 of 30 passes for 199 yards. Dalton started off fast with 161 yards and two touchdowns in the first half.

Green's streak continues: Defenses can't keep A.J. Green out of the end zone. This time, the Giants made it easy on Green. Going uncovered (cornerback Corey Webster thought he had safety help deep), Green just had to wait for Dalton's pass to score a 56-yard touchdown. It's his eighth straight game with a touchdown catch. Only two players (Randy Moss and Antonio Gates) have had longer streaks over the past 10 seasons.

Defense stands tall: The NFL's 20th-ranked defense looked like a top-10 one. The Bengals sacked Eli Manning four times and forced four turnovers. Cincinnati had just 11 takeaways in its previous eight games.

Capitalizing on mistakes: The Bengals put the game away in the third quarter, when they scored 14 points off a pair of turnovers (they had three turnovers total in the quarter). Interceptions by Pat Sims and Nate Clements led to Dalton 10-yard touchdown passes to Jermaine Gresham and Mohamed Sanu.

What's next: The Bengals play at the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.

Final Word: AFC North

November, 9, 2012
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 10:

Clamping down on quarterbacks: The Steelers have been a nightmare for quarterbacks. Over the past three games, Pittsburgh has given up a total of 407 yards passing and has held each quarterback to fewer than 178 yards passing: the Bengals' Andy Dalton (105 yards), the Redskins' Robert Griffin III (177) and Eli Manning (125). This doesn't bode well for the Chiefs' Matt Cassel, who is starting because Brady Quinn has a concussion. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Cassel has the most pass attempts (66) without a touchdown pass against five or more rushers this season. The Steelers have used such pressure 41.7 percent of the time this season, the third-highest rate in the NFL.

Home cooking for Flacco: Since 2010, the Ravens are 19-1 at home, and quarterback Joe Flacco deserves a lot of credit for that impressive mark. During that stretch, he has averaged 245 yards passing with 30 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. His passer rating is 96.6. Look for the Ravens to run early to set up play-action passes deep downfield. Flacco has 20 completions longer than 25 yards this season, which trails only Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Eli Manning. The Raiders got burned last Sunday when Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson caught passes of 20 and 64 yards.

[+] EnlargeAndy Dalton
AP Photo/Michael KeatingAndy Dalton is one pick away from becoming the sixth QB to throw one in a season's first nine games.
Bad matchup: Dalton has thrown an interception once every 25.9 pass attempts this season, which is the third-worst rate in the NFL this season. The Giants defense has picked off a pass once every 18.4 attempts, second best in the league this year. Based on this, the prospects of Dalton ending his interception streak don't look promising. Dalton is trying to avoid becoming the sixth quarterback in the past 30 seasons to throw an interception in his first nine games. The others who have done this: Vince Ferragamo (1983 and 1985), Steve DeBerg (1985), Warren Moon (1986), Jim Kelly (1988) and Troy Aikman (1990).

How the west was won: It's well known that Baltimore has the NFL's longest current home winning streak at 14 games. But the Ravens have another impressive streak as well: They have beaten teams from the West divisions (AFC and NFC) 10 consecutive times at home, dating back to the 2004 season. It's a longer drought for the Raiders, which have never defeated the Ravens in Baltimore (losing all four matchups). The last time the Raiders won a game in Baltimore was Dec. 24, 1977. That was the AFC divisional playoff against the Colts, which featured the famous 42-yard reception by Raiders tight end Dave Casper late in the fourth quarter, better known as Ghost to the Post.

Back-to-back with Manning brothers: The Bengals host Eli Manning just one week after facing Peyton Manning at Paul Brown Stadium. This marks only the third time that a team has faced the Manning brothers in consecutive weeks. The Titans swept them in 2006, and the Ravens split the meetings in 2004, when Eli Manning was a rookie. The last time the Bengals went against Eli Manning was 2008, when he threw for 289 yards and one touchdown in a 26-23 overtime victory at Giants Stadium.

Upon Further Review: Bengals

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Revisiting the Cincinnati Bengals' 31-23 loss to the Denver Broncos at Paul Brown Stadium:

The Bengals aren't officially eliminated from the playoffs and they haven't conceded anything. In losing four straight, Cincinnati (3-5) is two games out of a postseason spot.

What hurts the Bengals is falling to 2-5 in the AFC. Conference records is among the first playoff tiebreakers.

“We’re definitely in a tough spot, and the schedule doesn’t get any easier,” cornerback Leon Hall told the Columbus Dispatch.

The Bengals play the defending Super Bowl champion Giants at home next week before playing five straight games against teams that don't have winning records: at Kansas City, home against Oakland, at San Diego, home against Dallas and at Philadelphia. Cincinnati finishes the season at Pittsburgh and home against Baltimore.

“It’s a tough road ahead of us and we have to hit it hard,” coach Marvin Lewis said. “The teams ahead of us play each other, and we get a chance to play some of them. We just have to go. But we’ve dug a hole, no question about it."

The Bengals haven't put together back-to-back winning seasons since 1981-82.

STAT THAT STICKS: 2 -- Number of minutes that the Bengals have led out of the 480 minutes played against Peyton Manning, according to Cincinnati reporter Kevin Goheen.

OVERHEARD: "This is the NFL. One touchdown, one field goal separates NFL games every season. That's why it's just absurd when people say stuff about Alabama and Oregon and them being able to play NFL football. They wouldn't stand a chance. They'd get beat by 50." Offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth told the team's official website.

WHAT'S NEXT: After losing to Peyton Manning for the eight straight time, the Bengals (3-5) play host to the Giants (6-3) and Eli Manning, who has a 1-1 record against Cincinnati.

Wrap-up: Steelers 24, Giants 20

November, 4, 2012
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My thoughts on the Pittsburgh Steelers' 24-20 victory at the New York Giants:

What it means: The Steelers are hitting their stride, winning four of their past five games including three straight. Sunday's victory was a statement game for Pittsburgh. The Steelers had pointed to this game at the defending Super Bowl champion Giants as a measuring stick and showed their mettle by overcoming a change to their travel plays, questionable calls by the officials, the loss of two injured running backs and a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Isaac Redman ran for 147 yards and the winning one-yard touchdown as the Steelers pulled off the fourth-quarter comeback. Pittsburgh (5-3) remains one game behind the AFC North-leading Ravens (6-2).

Redman steps up: Redman was the starting running back by default after Jonathan Dwyer (quad) and Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles) were inactive. He finished with 147 yards, which was 20 more than what he totaled in five previous games this season. This marked the third straight game that the Steelers have had a 100-yard rusher.

Sanders delivers big plays: Emmanuel Sanders more than filled the void left by Antonio Brown, who injured his left ankle in the first half and didn't return. Sanders caught a four-yard pass for the Steelers' first touchdown and averaged 25.3 yards on three punts. He should've scored on one return but he was stopped by Giants punter Steve Weatherford.

Questionable calls: NFL referee Billy Leavy, who acknowledged he made mistakes in helping the Steelers win their Super Bowl over the Seahawks, wasn't doing Pittsburgh any favors Sunday. Leavy didn't overturn Ben Roethlisberger's fumble in the second quarter, which led to a 70-yard return for a touchdown, even though it looked like the Steeelers quarterback's arm was going forward. Leavy also upheld the Giants' first touchdown when it didn't look like running back Andre Brown had broken the plane. The Steelers were penalized six times for 119 yards.

Roethlisberger over Manning: Roethlisberger has bragging rights over Eli Manning in a matchup of two Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks from the 2004 draft. Roethlisberger threw for 216 yards and two touchdowns, including a 51-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace in the fourth quarter. Manning was held to 125 yards, which is 162 yards below his per-game average this season. Roethlisberger has now beaten Manning in two of the three meetings.

Overcoming the fake: The Steelers faced fourth-and-1 trailing by three points (20-17) with 10 1/2 minutes remaining. Even though the Steelers were at the Giants' 3-yard line, it's an easy decision to go for the tying field goal, right? Pittsburgh went for a fake field goal -- kicker Shaun Suisham took a backward flip from holder Drew Butler -- which resulted in a one-yard loss. The Steelers defense, though, forced a three-and-out, and the offense drove 51 yards on nine plays for the winning touchdown. The risky call didn't hurt the Steelers in the end.

Tight travel: Maybe the Steelers should consider traveling on the day of the game for every road trip. Pittsburgh, which couldn't travel to New Jersey on Saturday because its hotel was without power, arrived hours before kickoff. Unlike previous away games this season, the Steelers didn't have the same difficulties in the fourth quarter. Pittsburgh outscored the Giants, 14-0, in the final 14 minutes of the game.

What's next: The Steelers return home to play the last-place Chiefs (1-7) on "Monday Night Football."
In an interview with ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike in the Morning," Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger talks about his relationship with offensive coordinator Todd Haley and how 95 percent of the offense has changed under him. He also discusses Eli Manning, the state of Pittsburgh's offense, the injuries to his team's defense and more.

Click right here to hear the full interview.
When evaluating the top quarterbacks of the 2004 draft, the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger has more wins and a better passer rating than Eli Manning. But Manning has thrown for more yards and touchdown passes than Roethlisberger.

So, who's better? Based on a SportsNation poll that drew 17,889 votes, the nod goes to Roethlisberger. He received 48 percent of the votes, and Manning took 38 percent (14 percent say it's too close to call).

Here are some selected comments from readers on this debate:

Josh from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.: I am huge Pittsburgh fan (born there). I love Ben as our quarterback. A few years ago, I would have said Ben is hands down better than Eli. But Eli has improved quite a bit over the past few years. Now, I am not sure you can really say one is better than the other. They both have ice in their veins and get the job done when it matters most and the team needs them.

Jeb from Laurel, Md.: The best way to answer the question of Eli vs. Ben is to answer it with this question: Who would thrive more in the opposing offense? Ben makes his plays on the run and avoiding would-be tacklers with his agility and speed. Eli, not known to be a mobile quarterback, tends to make most of his passes from the pocket. If you switch these two, I honestly believe that Ben would thrive with a great offensive line and Eli would struggle to avoid tacklers with the porous offensive line in Pittsburgh.

Rich from Gloucester, N.J.: Eli is definitely the better quarterback. He is clutch. When the game is on the line, he is the man I want to be my quarterback. The Giants' run game and secondary has been a joke for years, almost non-existent. Ben Roethlisberger has had one of the best premier defenses behind him since he came into the league along with a great running game and offensive line. If you put Ben on the Giants, there is no way he does as well as he has been in his career. Eli is the better quarterback.

Andrew from Lima, Peru: Eli has absolutely become an amazing passer over the last couple years. But I have to take Big Ben on this debate. If we're talking about a career, and not just where they are now, you have to respect the 20-30 game-winning drives by Roethlisberger. In addition, Big Ben was lights-out from Day One, going undefeated as a rookie in 14 games. Eli is an excellent pocket passer, but get a hand on him and he'll go down. Ben throws 300-pound defensive ends off his back and gets a fresh set of downs. To me, I have to take the more dynamic, play-extending player over the traditional pocket man.

Chris from Grafton, Ohio: You have to pick Eli as better than Big Ben. The difference is that Eli has been more durable, plus he won his two titles himself. The first title Ben won was because of the zebras, his defense, and the Bus. If you recall that officiating crew was suspended due to their putrid performance at the Super Bowl. Have to give the elite quarterback edge to Eli.

Joe from Wheeling, W.Va.: Big Ben by a very small margin. If Ben had a better line the last five years, I think they would have three Super bowls instead of two. If Eli had that weak of a line, he would not have the stats or Super Bowls that he does. I think the 2008 Steelers were an elite defense with a top-tier QB, good receivers, average running backs, and possibly the worst offensive line to win the big game. I think a lot of people overlook this.

Eric from Pittsburgh: Ben has clearly been the superior of the two in terms of wins and post season success. Keep in mind that this debate only holds water because the Giants defense played well enough to hold Tom Brady in check, which allowed Eli a shot at those game winning drives in the first place. I don't pretend that Eli isn't a great, maybe even the greatest, fourth-quarter quarterback in the NFL today. But the truth is his entire legacy is built on those two drives, in games that were won on the defensive side of the ball. In Ben's first Super Bowl, the Steelers won in spite of him. In his return, it was quite the opposite, where he watched his top-ranked defense allow Larry Fitzgerald to run rampant through their secondary. When Eli's highlights come up, you know the Tyree/Manningham catches will a part of it. Ben is defined by so much more, and that is what separates the two.
My weekly column was on the debate about whether Eli Manning or Ben Roethlisberger is the best quarterback to come out of the 2004 draft.

Our friends at ESPN Stats & Information offered two takes on this discussion. Bobby Greenhalgh is taking Roethlisberger:
Over the past two seasons, when Roethlisberger has been under duress or hit while throwing, he has an NFL-high (among 40 qualified quarterbacks) 55.9 completion percentage and eight touchdowns, tied with Michael Vick for the most in the league. Roethlisberger has also excelled on third down. He leads all qualified quarterbacks with a 97.3 Total QBR on third down this season, much higher than Manning’s 52.2. Roethlisberger has thrown six touchdowns and no interceptions on third down.
SportsNation

Who has been the better quarterback since being drafted in the first round in 2004?

  •  
    41%
  •  
    44%
  •  
    15%

Discuss (Total votes: 23,322)

Evan Kaplan is siding with Eli Manning:
Manning has thrown 20 touchdown passes in the fourth quarter over the past two seasons, more than any other player in the league. He has continued to improve with his fourth-quarter performance over the past three seasons, increasing his Total QBR from 34.6 in 2010 to 84.9 this season, which ranks fourth among qualified quarterbacks. Manning has also shown the ability to win on the road. Including last postseason, when Manning led the Giants to two road wins, he is 10-4 away from MetLife Stadium and has a Total QBR of 68.5 on the road.

So who do you think is the better quarterback: Roethlisberger or Eli Manning? Record your vote and send me your reason why by dropping me a note in the mailbag. Your comment could be used in a blog post Friday.

Let the debate begin: Eli or Big Ben

October, 31, 2012
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Manning/RoethlisbergerAP Photo/US PresswireSunday will be the third meeting between Eli Manning, left, and Ben Roethlisberger; each is 1-1.
When the Steelers play the Giants on Sunday, there will be something swirling at New York's MetLife Stadium that has nothing to do with a superstorm. It's the long-running debate over whether Ben Roethlisberger or Eli Manning is the best quarterback from the 2004 draft.

Roethlisberger and Manning are known for winning Super Bowls (they've combined to win four of the eight played since they entered the league). They're known for making big plays in big moments. They're known for being tough, albeit in different ways. And they have been forever linked since the day they were drafted in the first round eight years ago. Manning was selected first overall, and Roethlisberger was taken at No. 11. The margin between them is much, much closer now.

Choosing between Roethlisberger and Manning is difficult because there really isn't a right answer or a wrong one. It ultimately comes down to preference and perspective. In his preseason quarterback rankings, John Clayton put Roethlisberger at No. 4 and Manning at No. 5. In Ron Jaworski's rankings, Manning is No. 5 and Roethlisberger is No. 6.

"By any measure, in terms of how you would grade them -- wins, production, leading your team from behind, frightening the other team, forcing the other team to adjust to what they do -- they're virtually identical," said Bill Polian, an NFL analyst for ESPN Insider who spent 24 seasons as a general manager in the league.

If I had to choose one, the nod goes to Roethlisberger by the slimmest of margins. It's based on his reputation of being a winner. Every defense in the league would acknowledge that it's as hard to beat Roethlisberger as it is to bring him down for a sack. In his eight seasons, he's led the Steelers to the playoffs six times and guided them to the Super Bowl three times (winning twice).

Media and fans aren't the only ones keeping track of these quarterbacks. Roethlisberger acknowledged that watching Manning win last season's Super Bowl has inspired him to win more.

"Now that Eli has tied me with his second, I have to try to get back up on him," Roethlisberger told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in February. "So I have a little extra motivation."

Here's the tale of the quarterback tape:

Efficiency. Roethlisberger is more accurate and takes care of the ball better than Manning. Counting this season, Roethlisberger has completed more than 60 percent of his passes in seven seasons and has posted a passer rating over 90 in seven seasons. Manning has connected on more than 60 percent of his throws in five seasons (never higher than 62.9 percent) and has recorded a passer rating over 90 in just two years. Roethlisberger has been the more consistent and effective quarterback. Edge: Roethlisberger.

Production. Manning puts up more passing yards and points than Roethlisberger. In each of the previous three seasons, Manning has passed for more than 4,000 yards and has thrown at least 27 touchdowns. He recently had a streak of 24 consecutive games with 200 or more passing yards broken (it was the second-longest in NFL history). Roethlisberger has two 4,000-yard seasons in his previous three, but he hasn't thrown more than 26 touchdowns during that span. Edge: Manning.

Clutch play. It's hard to be better than Manning in this category when it comes to the Super Bowl. He led two last-minute touchdown drives to win a couple of Lombardi trophies and Super Bowl MVP awards. Manning set the league record with 15 fourth-quarter touchdown passes last season, and he's helped the Giants to 10 fourth-quarter comebacks over the past two seasons. Roethlisberger's resume is equally as impressive and also includes a last-minute winning touchdown throw in the Super Bowl. His 19 comeback victories and 25 game-winning drives were the most through a quarterback's first seven seasons, and he was the only quarterback to produce 20 fourth-quarter come-from-behind victories before he turned 30. Edge: Even.

Victories. This is where Roethlisberger separates himself from Manning. He has an 84-36 record (.700) in the regular season, which dwarfs Manning's 75-52 record (.590). Roethlisberger became the fourth quarterback of the Super Bowl era to reach 80 wins in 113 or fewer starts, and he led the Steelers to four AFC Championship Game appearances in his first seven seasons. Manning, though, is right there with Roethlisberger in the postseason with an 8-3 mark. Roethlisberger is 10-4 in the playoffs. Edge: Roethlisberger.

This quarterback debate is unlike any other, because the 2004 draft is the only one to produce two quarterbacks who've won multiple Super Bowls. Roethlisberger and Manning are among the three active quarterbacks who have won two or more titles (Tom Brady is the other one).

"You can't predict Super Bowls. What you can predict is whether they're going to be winning quarterbacks in the National Football League who can take your team into the playoffs and advance," said Polian, who personally scouted both quarterbacks in the 2004 draft. "In the NFL, you want a quarterback who can win for you those three or four games a year when nothing else goes right and can win games that look they're lost. Are they those types of quarterbacks? Absolutely. You could see that in college."

How close are Roethlisberger and Manning as quarterbacks? They've even split their two meetings against each other. Roethlisberger won at New York in their 2004 rookie year. Manning won at Heinz Field in 2008. The winner Sunday gets bragging rights over his 2004 classmate. But, as Polian pointed out, this debate doesn't carry much weight on the field.

"They're both going into the Hall of Fame. They're both probably going to be first-ballot Hall of Famers," Polian said. "It doesn't matter who is first or second. It only matters if you have one or don't have one. Of their generation and class, these guys are the two best."

Also: Check out ESPN Stats & Information's analysis of Manning and Roethlisberger.

Friday Forecast: Week 5 predictions

October, 5, 2012
10/05/12
12:30
PM ET
Not only am I coming off a perfect week, I was very close with the predicted scores as well. Here are my predictions for the Week 5 games involving AFC North teams:

Steelers 23, Eagles 17: The focus will be the return of linebacker James Harrison and safety Troy Polamalu. The bigger factor is the return to Heinz Field after two road losses. In their past nine home games, the Steelers have held visitors to 10 points per game. That means it will be a long day for Michael Vick.

Ravens 31, Chiefs 20: The Ravens will jump out to a fast start to silence both Jamaal Charles and the noisy Arrowhead Stadium crowd. Joe Flacco threw for 265 yards and two touchdowns in a playoff game at Kansas City two seasons ago. He will surpass those totals Sunday.

Dolphins 21, Bengals 16: Over the past two seasons, the Bengals have beaten the teams they were supposed to beat. Not this time. Although the Bengals were able to shut down Maurice Jones-Drew last Sunday, Reggie Bush lights up the 23rd-ranked run defense to pull off the upset.

Giants 24, Browns 13: This is a bad matchup for the winless Browns. Eli Manning will pick on a Cleveland secondary that will be vulnerable until cornerback Joe Haden returns. Trent Richardson will have a productive game, but Brandon Weeden will make costly mistakes against the Giants' pass rush.




Last week's recap: 2-0. Season record: 6-3.

Ravens 23, Browns 16 (prediction: Ravens 20, Browns 10)

Bengals 27, Jaguars 10 (prediction: Bengals 27, Jaguars 17)

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AFC NORTH SCOREBOARD

Sunday, 11/23
Monday, 11/24